Select Committee on Transport, Local Government and the Regions Minutes of Evidence

Examination of Witnesses (Questions 100-109)



  100. Good, and you have not had your attention grasped before?
  (Mr Clayton) We had, in fact, but perhaps now is not the time to go into the details.

Mr Campbell

  101. Can I ask the three companies about bus patronage and discounted fares. Forgive my ignorance if I ask a very basic question, but are there any regions covered by any of your companies where there are free fares offered, for example, to senior citizens as a discounted fare?
  (Mr Clayton) Liverpool have free fares.

  102. And the other two?
  (Mr Clayton) And London, of course.
  (Mr Lockhead) No, ours are a proportion of the adult fare, either 50 per cent, or a fixed amount in relation to that.
  (Mr Cochrane) That is the same with us, and that proportion will vary from County and local authority to local authority.

  103. In Northern Ireland last year, we introduced a scheme of free fares for senior citizens, and that has shown initially, albeit within a 12 month period, a very significant increase in bus patronage. I am just wondering if the issue itself has been raised, maybe not by you, but by others, in terms of the possibility of expanding the existing scheme?
  (Mr Cochrane) I think the broader concept of discounted fares is something that we all are keen to encourage. Right across our network there are many examples of where we have discounted fares significantly and seen substantial passenger volume growth on the back of that, either by introducing discounted network-wide tickets or individual single tickets. It is interesting to note that the Welsh scheme that was introduced, which involves discounted concessionary fares for Welsh senior citizens from 1 April this year. We are seeing that buses are packed at this point in time and, therefore, we are seeing a significant uptake in volumes on our Welsh operation in the short space of time that that service has been operating. So there is a clear linkage between fares and volume, and it is getting that balance right for us to stimulate and sustain patronage growth in the longer term.
  (Mr Lockhead) The research that we have done suggests that price is not the main barrier to getting out of your car and using buses. It usually is dependability of the service and knowledge of the service: how it runs; how often it runs; when you get to the stop, how long you are going to have to wait.

Andrew Bennett

  104. First of all, do you see yourselves in competition with trains and trams, or complementary to them?
  (Mr Lockhead) Complementary. We integrate with trams and trains as a general principle.

  105. Are you sure that happens in practice?
  (Mr Lockhead) If we go back to the Sheffield situation, we are investing heavily in buses in Sheffield. I am sorry the lady Member left.


  106. Not personal, actually, Mr Lockhead.
  (Mr Lockhead) That is servicing both the bus network and making sure that the tram network benefits from that, so there is a combined effect.

Andrew Bennett

  107. And the other question. As far as a lot of local authorities are putting in raised bus stops, if they put in raised bus stops to make it easy for low access vehicles and disabled people to get on, should they be able to ban operators who do not have low access vehicles from those routes?
  (Mr Lockhead) It is an interesting point. In fact, in the Statutory Quality Partnership that is part of the contract, that if the operator and the local authority sign up to doing certain things, then only those operators that comply are allowed in, so you are right, there is nothing to stop that happening. It is there now. We should be using it now.

  108. Do you think it would be a good idea?
  (Mr Lockhead) I see nothing wrong with it, providing it does not get rid of competition. It creates, in some ways, a barrier to entry to those people who cannot raise the cash to buy new buses, but then if you want to raise quality, then maybe that is worth paying.

  109. So if you want to raise quality, what about these yellow School buses? They are going to make it more and more difficult for mobility impaired youngsters to get on and off them, are they not, because they tend to be old buses?
  (Mr Lockhead) I will talk about the American School bus which we are introducing in this country, and that is just the opposite. They are new vehicles; they are dedicated services to get children to school. In America, they are the safest and securest way of taking children to school, and we want to use that here. In America, they use those for wheelchair passengers by putting lifts on them.

  Chairman: I am sorry. I am going to have to stop you there. Gentlemen, you have been very tolerant. I think we might send you a few questions, but you have been allowed to escape. The Committee stands adjourned for 15 minutes.

  The Committee suspended from 4.55 pm to 5.08 pm for a division in the House

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